Libya’s supreme court blocks legal challenges to draft constitution

Libyan cadets march a graduation ceremony for a new batch of the unity government's Special Operations Force, at Abu Sitta Naval Base in the capital Tripoli on February 13, 2018, attended by the unity government's prime minister. (AFP)
Updated 15 February 2018
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Libya’s supreme court blocks legal challenges to draft constitution

TRIPOLI: Libya’s supreme court blocked legal challenges from lower courts to a draft constitution on Wednesday, paving the way for a possible referendum on the document and a move toward elections, a lawyer who helped draft the text said.
Establishing a constitutional framework is widely seen as a key step in efforts to stabilize Libya after years of anarchy following a 2011 uprising.
The oil-rich country has splintered in recent years into local fiefdoms, with competing parliaments and governments set up in the east and west of the country backed by rival armed alliances. The United Nations is hoping that elections can be held by the end of the year.
Members of a Constitutional Drafting Assembly (CDA) had voted last summer in favor of a draft constitution, but an administrative court in the eastern city of Bayda had ruled that the vote was invalid.
The supreme court effectively quashed the Bayda decision by declaring that administrative courts do not have the jurisdiction to rule on matters relating to the CDA, said Omar Naas, a CDA member.
The draft constitution could still face hurdles, including challenges in the supreme court, turnout or approval requirements set by the eastern parliament or House of Representatives (HOR) for a constitutional referendum, and the difficulty of holding a nationwide poll in a country where there are no national security forces.
Some of Libya’s minorities have also said they were excluded from a lengthy and sometimes acrimonious drafting process.
But Naas said the text was for “all Libyans,” and greeted the supreme court’s decision as “historic.”
“The next steps are for the House of Representatives to discuss and write the referendum law that will enable Libyans to decide their fate,” he said.


Syrian Kurdish-led council visits Damascus for new talks

Updated 48 min 29 sec ago
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Syrian Kurdish-led council visits Damascus for new talks

  • A delegation including members of the US-backed SDF held talks with Damascus earlier this month
  • The visits highlight efforts by the Kurdish-led authorities to open new channels to President Bashar Assad’s government

BEIRUT: The political wing of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has been to Damascus for a second round of talks with the state, the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper said on Tuesday.
A delegation including members of the US-backed SDF, which controls roughly a quarter of Syria, held talks with Damascus earlier this month, their first declared visit to the capital.
The visits highlight efforts by the Kurdish-led authorities to open new channels to President Bashar Assad’s government, as they seek to negotiate a political deal that keeps their autonomy within Syria.
The SDF is spearheaded by the Kurdish YPG militia, which has mostly avoided conflict with Assad and says its aim has been to secure Kurdish rights rather than topple the government.
This has set them apart from rebel factions fighting to topple Assad since 2011, which have now been defeated in much of the territory they once held.
The Syrian Democratic Council (SDC) went for new talks on local administation and decentralization, Al-Watan cited its co-chair Riad Darar as saying on Tuesday.
“All the discussions happening now are ... to find out the other side’s point of view,” he said. The talks “need a lot of reflection to make decisions, and so the matter was left to other meetings.”
Such negotiations could raise new questions for US policy in Syria, where the US military has deployed into SDF territory during the battle against Islamic State.
The SDF seized swathes of land with US help, though Washington opposes their aim of regional autonomy. The region they control spreads across much of northern and eastern Syria, rich in farmland, oil, and water.
Damascus says the US forces are occupiers. For the first time, Assad said in May that he was “opening doors” for talks with the SDF, but also threatened force and said the Americans would leave one way or another.